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BFI Launches Huge Database Spanning a Century of British Film

Judi Dench is the most prolific working female actor in British film today. Michael Caine is the most prolific male actor. Queen Victoria, James Bond, and Sherlock Holmes are, in that order, the characters who have appeared most in British film, while war is the subject covered most.

Such are some of the facts now discoverable in the British Film Institute’s new Filmography database, a huge digital repository covering more than 100 years of film in the U.K., with details of more than 10,000 movies and 250,000 cast and crew.

Filmography is designed to be used by fans and industry professionals alike, and is segmented into 130 genres. Drama is the most popular category on Filmography, with 3,710 films. Comedy and romance are other key groupings. While more films have been made about war than any other subject, there are more films about Europe than Britain, the database shows, even as the U.K. heads for Brexit. And James Bond director Lewis Gilbert is the U.K.’s most prolific living director, with 33 films to his name.

“With a complete data set from 1911 to the present day, we now know for the first time ever,exactly how many films have been made and released, when and by whom,” said Heather Stewart, BFI creative director. “At a time when the U.K. film industry is burgeoning, the BFI Filmography is an invaluable resource for anyone with an interest in film, providing evidence that can help inform policy, the future of the industry and its workforce.”

Filmography reveals that women are still not accurately or proportionally represented on film; indeed, “man” is the most common word in British film titles. The percentage of women cast, at about 30%, is the same today as in the early years of cinema, the BFI said. More women than men get cast in unnamed, gender-stereotypical roles.

In terms of cast and crew, the proportion of women has slowly risen over the history of British film and now stands at 34%. Majority-female crews remain very rare, though there has been a marked improvement in recent years in films with all-female director and writer teams. Documentary remains the category of film most made by women in modern times, but, ironically, it is also one of the categories whose films featured women the least.

Overall, the new data show that the 1980s were a low point for U.K. film in terms of the number of releases, and that there has been a notable uptick over the past few years, with 2015, in which 232 films were released, the highest output since the 1930s.

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